John Howard Wolf doesn’t know how to fix the global economy, but he can teach us a thing or two about education. Its been his business and passion for most of his adult life. Having immigrated from the US to Portugal in the late 1970’s, even back then he was a swimming against the current, setting up a primary school in a country still getting over its post-fascist hangover. As a Americano-Luso (American-Portuguese) he has a unique perspective based on the kind of experiences most of us only wish we could have. John Howard Wolf knows literature and he knows history, but what he knows that the world would be lucky to hear about, is another way to approach life and human relations on this planet. For one great hour on the last days of summer in Lisbon, we sat together watching the world go by during a financial crisis, and talking about how this all happened and what is to come.
Lots of random artifacts come out in the mainstream media that once belonged to Gaddafi. Today I watched a home video where he sits on a couch and kids around with his grand children. There he is, grandpa Muammar who clearly loves his grandchildren, same guy who ordered the mass murder of political prisoners, same guy who thought it was a good idea to start the African Union. The Dutch newspaper ran a series of photos of the Colonel, from his rise to power as a young charismatic military man to his last few years looking like the political Michael Jackson. This is was no monster. Yet he did monstrous things.
José dos Santos in Angola has been president for 32 years. He is, behind all the political pageantry, a dictator. But once upon a time, his party was the voice of reason under the brutal Portuguese colonial system. They helped liberate the country and went on to fight a civil war against what may or may not have been a madman (Jonas Savimbi). But here they are, 2011, the enemy of human rights and the antithesis of a party that was supposed to improve the quality of life for all Angolans.
Fidel Castro. Robert Mugabe. The ANC in South Africa. Bad comparisons? Perhaps. But the list of leaders and movements that started as heroes and later became something other than good to their fellow citizens is long. Whats more, it is often not possible for these leaders to recognize what they have become. They honestly seem to believe they are still doing what is right and fighting the good fight. Later some of these people are called monsters for the crimes they commit during their reign. But in reality, monsters are just people. Grandpa Muammar was Colonel murderer, and everything in between.
What we the observers of this world and the reporters that try to explain it all need to do, is not turn everything into some easy to swallow version of the truth. The truth is not black and white, it is grey. And by pretending it isn’t, we make it more possible for the same scenarios to keep playing themselves out. Yes, you might be the hero today, and that is wonderful. But remember, years later when you still think you’re the hero, you probably aren’t.
One of the finest and most extensive audio journalism series’ I’ve heard in all the years podcasting has existed, is being produced this summer by Chris Lydon’s Radio Open Source. His focus has been Pakistan, past, present, and future. As part of his series, “Another Pakistan,” he has spoken with a cross section of people from politics, industry, activism, entertainment, immigration and more. In a country that is so important on the world scene, home to cities with a larger population then some countries in Europe, the information contained in these programs is not only interesting, it is vital. When it comes down to it, what you can learn from such a thorough series is better then anything you’ve learned in high school or that one class on South Asian politics/history you may have taken many years ago.
It’s is the first time in many years that I am back in the US during the 4th of July celebrations. While I enjoy a BBQ with friends and family today, I’ll also not forget the powerful words of Frederick Douglass back in 1852. In this video entry I read an except from that speech.